Memorial Day 2019

Memorial Day is a day for remembering and honoring military personnel who died in the service of their country, particularly those who died in battle or as a result of wounds sustained in battle. While those who died are also remembered, Veterans Day is the day set aside to thank and honor ALL those who served honorably in the military – in wartime or peacetime. In fact, Veterans Day is largely intended to thank LIVING veterans for their service, to acknowledge that their contributions to our national security are appreciated, and to underscore the fact that all those who served – not only those who died – have sacrificed and done their duty.” Per the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs

Honoring those who have died in service to the United States of America is a bittersweet moment for me. I desire to honor those men and women who have placed their lives on the line for me and the country I call home. I also have two men, in particular, who fit that category now. Once I had only my Daddy. Now, this year, I also honor my husband, Kenneth. Both of these men died from war-inflicted wounds of contamination…radiation – my father, Agent Orange – Kenneth. The two most special men in my life have left their earthly home….gone from my earthly life. Yet, both are with me in my heart. I loved them both dearly. I know I will see Kenneth in Heaven and I pray so for my Daddy.

Kenneth C. Gill
US Army 101st Airborne Infantry
Served 1967 – 1970
Vietnam 4/1968 – 4/1969
born – Salem, IL 1947 – died – Lufkin, TX 2018

June 7, 2018: This is the first Memorial Day without Kenneth. He was close to death last May. He died June 7th. He served in the Vietnam War 1968-1969 with the US Army’s 101st Airborne Infantry in the Central Highlands of Vietnam. He returned to the states and completed his service with the 82nd Airborne in North Carolina. He was exposed to Agent Orange throughout that year marching through rice paddies and areas that once had been wooded areas, since defoliated with AO.

Kenneth in Mason, Texas with one of his favorite characters from a book!
The author of “Old Yeller,” Fred Gipson, was from Mason.
The city library has a statue of the dog and the boy Travis.
Inside the library is a mini-museum featuring Fred Gipson.

In January, 2018, we found out he had Non-Hodgkins Lymphoma which is one of the cancers connected with Agent Orange. We believe he had had it for some time due to symptoms we better understood after the fact.

Kenneth was a wonderful husband of 25 years. I was truly blessed. God provided such a blessing to my life. Thank You, Lord. As I walk these days without Kenneth, I still am filled with love for this man whom You loaned to me. I am grateful, Lord, every day. You are the One I walk with today.

Ralph D Ross
US Navy Physician
World War II – Pacific
1942 – 1945, then continuing on til his death in the US Navy
born – Sterling, KS 1913 – died – Bethesda, MD 1960

September 18, 1960: My father’s life vanished in his prime – 46, a Navy doctor, a career spiraling upwards, a lovely wife, 3 daughters (12, 10, 7). The Navy was so special to him, so much so that he did not intend to retire at the 20-year mark!  He served in WWII in the Pacific Theater as surgeon, infection control medical officer, doctor, user of Penicillin in its early days to cure Syphillis.  From 1946-1951, he became a part of the after-war Manhattan Project, serving as a Radiological Safety Officer, while he continued to practice medicine in the Navy.  He was on Bikini Island for Operations Crossroads in 1946, then on Eniwetok for Operations Greenhouse in 1951.  By early 1960, he was diagnosed with Pancreatic cancer…a death sentence then and often, now. It is connected with radiation poisoning. PLUS…he was a great Daddy! I still miss him!

My parents are buried at Arlington National Cemetery. An honor, to say the least! (This was taken on a Memorial Day weekend as you can see by the flag. I had a friend of a blogging friend take it while she was there. Thanks.)

Mama became a Gold Star Widow; we became Gold Star children. “They are the Gold Star children, war’s innocent victims, and their pain shimmers across the years pure and undimmed. They pass through life with an empty room in their hearts where a father was supposed to live and laugh and love.  All their lives they listen for the footstep that will never fall, and long to know what might have been.”  **

Eleanor Malcotte Ross
born – Chicago, IL 1914 – died – Portland, TX 2013

January 30, 2013: My mother was an unsung war hero, too, although she did not die from war-related causes!  Not only was she a Navy officer’s wife, but worked during the war for the Naval Supply Depot, keeping the Navy-at-war in food and other supplies. She was a fine and fun mother too!

Buried with Daddy at Arlington National Cemetery.

Father, thank You for these very special people in my life. They have meant so much to me over the span of my lifetime. I am so grateful for the love I have known from each one of them. They loved me each in their own special way. I honor the service they offered to this country. Thank You for bringing Daddy and Kenneth home from wars so that Daddy could be my father and Kenneth could be my husband. Thank You. I am sorry they each died from contamination of war-related agents. I am so sorry for that…for my lose as well. I also honor the many more who died from their service to the United States of America. Please protect those many more service men and women who continue to be in harm’s way around the world, Lord. Hold those who have served but are dealing with the effects of war. Some are wanting to get ‘back-to-normal,’ others are dealing with homelessness, and others are medically or psychologically traumatized. Please care for them all, Father God. I pray all in the Name of Jesus. Amen.

Photograph: Arlington National Cemetery, Memorial Day, Flags In @ https://s.abcnews.com/images/US/160520_abc_vod_orig_memorialday_presidents_mix_16x9_992.jpg

All other photographs are my own. Please ask permission to use.

** Quoted in We Were Soldiers Once…and Young by Lt. General Harold G. Moore and Joseph L. Galloway

Memories of Trains

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“And the LORD will continually guide you,
And satisfy your desire in scorched places,
And give strength to your bones;
And you will be like a watered garden,
And like a spring of water whose waters do not fail.”
  Isaiah 58:11

This post is different for me but I have been listening to the sounds of trains since we moved to Lufkin.  Trains have always delighted me, since I was a young girl.

A number of trains run through this town each and every day.  As they move from one end to another, they cross intersections of the town so the horn must be blown.

From our home, we cannot see the train, but it can be heard, especially when the wind is out of the north and northeast. Clear and loud…these sounds make me smile.  Take a short listen of what it (almost) sounds like for me (just listening to the beginning is enough to hear what I hear, except I am further away):

The train was endearing for me as a little girl.  When I was young, we lived on a Naval hospital base, about 4 miles from a railroad track.  When Daddy got home from work at the hospital, he would pile 2 of us girls in the car, go down to the tracks and wait for the five-something o’clock train (letting Mom get dinner without the 2 older kids while the youngest, being an infant, was napping).  We loved to wave to the engineer and he would blow that horn for us.  I was in early elementary school so counting the cars was a great exercise for my brain.  Of course, my sister (3 years younger) wanted to imitate me so she was learning to count too.  The train draws me back to those younger days and times with my father.

While living there in this small town, the second graders got to go to the San Diego Zoo for a field trip.  We lived a bit over 100 miles away.  We boarded buses early in the morning, taking us to the Riverside, CA train station.  From there we boarded the train to San Diego.  We spent the better part of the day at the zoo after a wonderful train ride.  Then back on the train to Riverside and buses to home.  What a great field trip!  That was 63 years ago and I remember it as if it were yesterday!

"CALIFORNIA San Diego - Santa Fe Train Station, Bekins 1950s"
“CALIFORNIA San Diego – Santa Fe Train Station, Bekins 1950s”

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When my Daddy became very ill, my parents sent us from Washington, D.C. (where he was stationed) to Boston on the train for a couple of weeks to vacation with some family friends.  The three of us girls rode together, alone.  I was 12 and my sisters were 9 and 6 at the time.  We thought we had grown up…riding the train without our parents.  We ate on the train, turned our tickets into the conductor, walked through a couple of cars, and watched people.  Fun for us and helped us forget how sick Daddy was.

I lived in Washington, D.C. twice in my life.  For the adult period, I was teaching in the DC Public Schools.  Union Station became a favorite place for me. I would change subways there, catching the Red Line.  I would often go upstairs for a minute, above the underground rails, before catching that homeward-bound train, just to see the beautiful old station.  At Christmas, they would have a few concerts in the Main Hall.  Oh my, it was so beautiful and wonderful!

During the 1980s, retail stores and restaurants began to be added in several areas of the station.  I returned to our Capital in 2013.  I was so saddened by the transformation that had happened to Union Station between 1989 and 2013…crowded with people, stores, cafes, island-type tiny shops.  It was so noisy.  What was once a gorgeous station was no more.  BUT…the Federal Railroad Administration and the State Historic Preservation Office stepped in and by May 2016, the Main Hall has been renovated back to the way it had been.  Oh, how glad I am to see this picture and the way it is NOW…again!

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Union Station, Washington, D.C. 2017

Kenneth and I have been on a few trains drawn by steam engines…delightful rides through lovely scenery too.

Here is just an example of the sounds which they are famous for, and make me smile!

The Metro Subway in Washington, D.C. gives me pleasure in a different sense than a train…smooth, mellow, fast or slow, light or dark depending on where I am on the line.  The subway became my main transportation while I lived and worked there.  I rode the bus too as I had no car.  I liked that.

washington-dc-metro-subway

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The sounds and feelings of trains and subways are so special to me.  I just love them.

A.B. Simpson (1843 – 1919) wrote: “God is looking for men on whom He can put the weight of all His love and power and faithful promises.  God’s engines are strong enough to draw any weight we attach to them. Unfortunately the cable which we fasten to the engine is often too weak to hold the weight of our prayer; therefore God is drilling us, disciplining us to stability and certainty in the life of faith.  Let us learn our lessons and stand fast.”

And a sweet hymn to offer before we go today:

“Life Is Like A Mountain Railroad”

Author: Eliza Roxey Snow 1804-1887;  Author: M. E. Abbey (Minister in GA in 1890s)

…that this is God, our God forever and ever.  He will be our guide forever.  Psalm 48:14 (guiding Scripture for hymn)

Life is like a mountain railroad,
With an engineer that’s brave;
We must make the run successful,
From the cradle to the grave;
Watch the curves, the fills, the tunnels;
Never falter, never quail;
Keep your hand upon the throttle,
And your eye upon the rail.

Refrain:
Blessed Savior, Thou wilt guide us,
Till we reach the blissful shore,
Where the angels wait to join us
In Thy praise forevermore.

You will roll up grades of trial;
You will cross the bridge of strife;
See that Christ is your conductor
On this lightning train of life;
Always mindful of obstruction,
Do your duty, never fail;
Keep your hand upon the throttle,
And your eye upon the rail. [Refrain]

You will often find obstructions,
Look for storms and wind and rain;
On a fill, or curve, or trestle
They will almost ditch your train;
Put your trust alone in Jesus,
Never falter, never fail;
Keep your hand upon the throttle,
And your eye upon the rail. [Refrain]

As you roll across the trestle,
Spanning Jordan’s swelling tide,
You behold the Union Depot
Into which your train will glide;
There you’ll meet the Sup’rintendent,
God the Father, God the Son,
With the hearty, joyous plaudit,
“Weary pilgrim, welcome home.” [Refrain]

Yes, “weary pilgrim, welcome home.”  What a blessing to think upon this, most of all.

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Train in Lufkin, TX: https://www.youtube.com/watch?time_continue=19&v=QYB9jWOalYI

Santa Fe Station in San Diego, CA – postcard “CALIFORNIA San Diego – Santa Fe Train Station, Bekins 1950s”   http://neplains.com/californiasandiego-santafetrainstationbekins1950s.aspx

Outside the San Diego station:  https://www.flickr.com/photos/tall_dude/3175800704

Steam Locomotive: Bells and Whistleshttps://www.youtube.com/watch?time_continue=1&v=utg0tK7cDbE

Metro Subway:  https://www.eiseverywhere.com/ehome/2012ALC/dc/

Metro Map:  http://www.railfanguides.us/dc/metro/